Kerr now has Warriors roster he can love after offseason moves originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
A few days after the NBA trade deadline in February, Warriors coach Steve Kerr spent a few minutes in a Chase Center hallway discussing the bumpiest of the team’s four post-championship seasons. He touched on needs, and he kept landing on the same goals.
Consistency. Predictability. Knowing what to expect from each player.
“With Gary, we know what he does,” Kerr said, referring to Gary Payton II, acquired at the deadline. “When he’s in the game, you have a pretty good idea of what he’s doing. We know Gary. We know what he does. We saw it last year.”
Between the lines, however, it was easy to recognize Kerr’s discomfort with unpredictability, which begets mistrust.
To gain a talented veteran in Payton, the Warriors had to surrender a novice whose future might or might not be blindingly brilliant. James Wiseman’s minutes were an adventure, but he possibly could blossom into an All-Star. Someday. Payton is tried and true. Now.
Which brings us to the Warriors as they exist in the third week of summer. The roster has been deliberately restocked with players with NBA resumés. Chris Paul, 38, 18-year vet, future Hall of Famer. Dario Šarić, 29, seven-year vet, perfect fit for Golden State’s system. Cory Joseph, 31, 12-year vet, the steadiest third point guard in the league.
Incoming general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. succeeded in addressing the areas he cited during his introductory news conference last month.
“Can we add some connectivity, whether that's through ball handling, passing, veteran experience,” Dunleavy said June 19. “I think we've heard, talked to the coaching staff, talked to our players, we have a good sense of kind of what we need to do.”
The Warriors are, on paper, a better postseason team.
Paul, Šarić and Joseph were brought in to provide stable support for Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney – who last season represented the most efficient starting lineup in the NBA.
The Warriors’ disappointing 44-38 record and dismissal in the Western Conference semifinals last season were more reflective of the roster’s shortcomings once beyond the starting five. That’s where unpredictability intruded and too often made a mess.
Jordan Poole, so marvelous for most of the 2021-22 championship season, never overcame the psychological damage inflicted in the preseason, and it showed in his erratic performances. Jonathan Kuminga, in his second season, was by turns spectacular and futile. Moses Moody, also in his second season, mostly watched from the bench. Wiseman, essentially a third-year rookie, played 21 of 55 games (262 minutes) before being traded to the Detroit Pistons.
Of the vets brought in last summer, Donte DiVincenzo was mostly good and JaMychal Green rarely productive. DiVincenzo was the most consistent player off the bench. Fairly predictable. And, therefore, trusted by Kerr.
Dunleavy and his lieutenants saw it all, as did CEO Joe Lacob. There were nights when they liked what they saw, and there were nights when they were at least as frustrated as the coaches and veteran players.
The front office also heard from Kerr, from the assistant coaches and from the team’s accomplished vets. There was no way to repair the damage of that angry fist in the preseason, but rinsing it away was priority one for the offseason.
“You could make an argument last year we were too young in some ways, sure,” Dunleavy said last month. “That's what we'll take a look at once the draft has gone by and take it from there.”
The new GM didn’t wait for the draft. On the third day of summer, hours before the Warriors were on the clock, they reached agreement to trade Poole for Paul. They swapped a gifted young scorer with maddening tendencies for perhaps the most reliably invariable point guard of an era that began in 2005.
The Warriors got older. Slower. Smarter. And more . . . calculable.
Which makes it so lovable to Kerr, even if he must cross his fingers and hope for adequate health. That’s the glaring caveat.
The Warriors last season led the NBA in turnovers, some of which turned narrow victory into distasteful defeat. Poole was the chief culprit. The new roster is built to curtail that. Paul and Joseph are meticulous ball-handlers suited to stabilize youngsters Kuminga and Moody.
Šarić is the reserve big man of Kerr’s dreams, 6-foot-10 with a high hoops IQ and offensive skills that complement Looney and Green. He can play pick-and-pop. He’s a crafty passer. He sees the floor. He can shoot the three. Šarić is decent defender, with the belief he should be better two years post-ACL surgery.
This roster has a chance to be Kerr’s favorite group since the terrific Super Villains of yore.
Depending mostly on the physical maintenance required to maximize a roster built around men in their mid- and late-30s, this group possesses what Kerr rarely saw last season.
Consistency. Predictability. Trust.